ATAMI, Shizuoka Pref. — Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung reaffirmed the importance of coordinating their North Korea policies in their talks here Saturday, the first since the two Koreas’ historic meeting in June.

During afternoon talks at a hotel in this hot-spring resort city, the two leaders agreed that close coordination between Japan, South Korea and the United States on their North Korea policies is indispensable to accelerating improved ties between the two Koreas, a Japanese official said.

They also agreed to boost economic cooperation and enhance cultural exchange between Japan and South Korea.

Mori shares a toast with the visiting South Korean president Saturday.

At a joint press conference held after the meeting, Kim said he hopes that Japan and North Korea improve their relationship, underlining the importance of normalized ties between the two countries in accelerating the detente process between South and North Korea.

“Unless Japan-North Korea relations improve, it is difficult for South and North Korea to move forward,” Kim said.

Kim urged Mori to open a direct dialogue with the North Korean leader to accelerate the normalization process, and Mori is believed to have asked Kim to convey to North Korea his desire for a summit meeting with Kim Jong Il, as little progress was made in the 10th round of bilateral normalization talks held last month in Tokyo and Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture.

“I need to ask for cooperation from President Kim Dae Jung in our process of normalization with North Korea,” Mori said at the news conference.

Since the previous meeting between Mori and Kim in Seoul in May, the situation on the Korean Peninsula has changed dramatically.

South Korea’s Kim and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il agreed to eventually reunify the Korean Peninsula and took various steps toward that goal in their landmark meeting in Pyongyang in June.

On bilateral relations, Kim made repeated calls for Japan to pass legislation granting permanent foreign residents — many of whom are ethnic Koreans — the right to vote in local elections by the end of the year.

“If it is realized, it will not only be good for bilateral relations, but will also give an opportunity for Japan to show itself to the world as an advanced civil society,” he said.

Kim also reportedly said that such a move would boost Korean citizen’s trust of Japan.

Mori, however, merely said the issue will be discussed in the current extraordinary Diet session and that he will pay close attention to the process, explaining that opinions are still divided among Diet members.

A bill granting suffrage for foreigners was jointly submitted to the Diet by New Komeito and the New Conservative Party, the two coalition allies of Mori’s Liberal Democratic Party. Within the LDP, however, some members remain firmly opposed to the move.

Kim also said he hopes that the Emperor will visit Seoul around 2002, in conjunction with soccer’s World Cup.

“The Emperor’s visit and the World Cup must be successfully carried out together,” he said.

On economic cooperation, the two leaders agreed to accelerate the process of concluding a bilateral investment treaty by the end of the year, the Japanese official said.

The treaty is designed to boost bilateral trade by giving each other’s businesses the same status as domestic companies when making investments.

They also agreed to set up a business leaders’ forum to discuss concluding a bilateral free-trade agreement, the official said.

The two leaders adopted an eight-point initiative on information technology cooperation, which includes coordinating electronic commerce policy, training engineers and exchanging researchers.

Pointing out that demand for seats is expected to increase greatly for the World Cup, Kim asked Japan to consider introducing shuttle flight services between Tokyo and Seoul in order to ease the tight air travel situation between the two cities, the official said.

Mori replied that aviation authorities are now discussing the idea and that he expects constructive discussions.

On cultural exchange, Mori told Kim of Japan’s plan to add Korean to the list of foreign languages in the standard exam for national university entrance, hopefully by January 2002 and by the beginning of 2003 at the latest.

Seoul had requested that Korean be included in the exam when then Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone visited South Korea in March.

Japan’s decision to add Korean to the exam was made in response to South Korea’s plan to drop all restrictions on Japanese culture by 2002, a year in which bilateral cultural and sports exchange will be emphasized in conjunction with the World Cup.

Since Kim visited Japan in October 1998, South Korea has gradually opened its doors to Japanese culture. During that visit, Kim and then Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi agreed to focus on the future, with Japan apologizing for its past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Kim is scheduled to leave Tokyo today after holding talks with Mori again over breakfast in Atami.

Aid North Korea: Kim

ATAMI, Shizuoka Pref. — South Korean President Kim Dae Jung on Saturday called on Japan to contribute economically to Seoul’s efforts to assist the North Korean economy.

Kim made the request in a speech here during a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

“In order to help recover North Korea’s economy, active support not only from South Korea, but also from Japan, the United States the European Union and international bodies are necessary,” Kim said.

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